Col. Ross Waltemath talks to the American Legion National Security Commission at Camp Atterbury on May 3. Photo by Tom Strattman

A 'hands-on' tour of Camp Atterbury

A group of about 30 Legionnaires from all over the country were guests on May 3 at Camp Atterbury, a training base of the Indiana National Guard located about 45 miles south of Indianapolis. The trip, which was coordinated by the Legion’s National Security/Foreign Relations Division, gave Legion members a tour and inside look at the historic, 30,000-acre mobilization and demobilization facility, which has trained thousands of reserve and regular servicemembers since becoming active in 2003.

The Legionnaires – most of whom were in Indianapolis for the organization’s Spring Meetings – were given presentations by Camp Atterbury officials in the base’s newly constructed conference center. Col. Todd Townsend, presiding garrison commander, gave a timeline of Camp Atterbury’s deep history dating back to its days as a POW camp during World War II for captured Italian and German soldiers. He also explained the important roles the base and nearby Muscatutuck Urban Training Center play in national security.

“Many people don’t think of Atterbury as key to our national defense, but we are in the fight every day,” Townsend said.

Col. Ross Waltemath, Indiana National Guard’s family programs director, also addressed the Legionnaires in attendance, discussing the challenges military families face during deployment and separation. Veterans service organizations like The American Legion, he said, are key in helping him locate servicemembers who need personal or financial aid.

“We’re all a community,” he said. “You guys send me the people who need help.”

At the end of the morning session, representatives from the Legion’s National Security/Foreign Relations Division gave officials from Camp Atterbury plaques of recognition.

Following a cafeteria lunch at the base’s dining hall, Legionnaires were given a “hands-on,” interactive tour of the post that allowed them to participate in some of the same battle-training exercises that soldiers complete before deployment. That included a stop at Camp Atterbury’s combat simulation facility, which uses a movie theatre-sized screen to emulate live battle. A life-like video game, complete with real guns that fire virtual bullets, Legionnaires got the opportunity to fight off insurgents in the simulated environment. It’s an exercise that helps servicemembers at the base learn the intricacies of shooting.

After the combat exercise, officials from the base gave the Legionnaires a demonstration of the camp’s Humvee rollover training device. A wheel-less Humvee that is suspended in the air by two poles, the machine can rotate 360 degrees and simulate a rollover. This is a common accident in Afghanistan, where the insurgency often uses IEDs to upheave large American vehicles.

The visit wrapped up with a tour of Camp Atterbury’s TBI testing and treatment center and its dental care facility.

“I was exceedingly impressed with the camp and the staff at Atterbury,” said Mike Schlee, chairman of the Legion’s National Security Commission. “There was a genuinely honest and enthusiastic approach to our visit. It was very informative in particular to see the TBI testing facility.”